June 5, 1937-April 23, 2012
Dick Walford was born to Oscar and Dorothy Walford on June 5, 1937 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He was father to my nephews William (Will) Harold and Norman (Norm) Richard Walford, and husband to my sister Lee. He was my much-loved brother-in-law. Upon graduation from high school, Dick joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in Spokane, Washington.
Dick met my sister in August 1956, when she was waiting at a bus stop to return home after working in the downtown Spokane public library. For some reason, Lee gave her real name to Dick, something she did not normally do. The next day the phone rang at our house as Dick and his friend followed the bus home, looked up the name “Morris” and asked Lee out on a date. You can see how clever Dick was.
Lee and Dick went to an amusement park and walked and talked a lot. Lee said, “Dick was wonderful to talk with, he had pretty eyes, nice teeth and an easy laugh.” I never thought of Dick as having “pretty eyes and nice teeth,” but I did grow to love his personality and sense of humor…though as the “little brother” it was my duty to keep an eye on him and torment them as often as I could .
Lee and Dick were married July 19, 1958 and, upon an honorable discharge from the Air Force, Dick worked and went to college, eventually graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in Industrial Engineering. Son William was born August 2, 1959, and son Norman followed December 17, 1965.
While attending Oregon State University, Dick, along with his brother-in-law, Linus (that’s me), set world records in their self-invented athletic events of the Frisbee toss and Whiffle Ball batting.
Dick got his first engineering job with Boeing in Seattle and later worked for 3M, moving the family to New York State. He went on to work for Xerox, Sarah Coventry, and eventually retired from General Motors as a contract engineer. Along the way, Dick picked up a Masters Degree and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology.
I loved my brother-in-law. He was the brother I never had. Though we were separated by a lot of miles, and sometimes an ocean, we always picked up our friendship and conversations where we left off.
Dick’s family loved him even more. Lee said, “He was loyal; he had a dry sense of humor; he loved his family; he loved me. He had a quick temper, but he was just as quick to say he was sorry. He believed in doing things right; he was honorable. Dick loved fishing, bird watching, the University of Syracuse Basketball Team, the New York Yankees, and the Green Bay Packers (being born in nearby Sheboygan).”
Will said about his dad, “He was a good man; he had a wry sense of humor; he liked to do things right. When he planted a garden, he wanted the rows perfectly straight. He loved my mom a lot. Even when he got sick and didn’t feel up to planting the garden, he found the strength to do it anyway…because he knew how much it meant to my mom. Dad missed mom a lot when she was in Oregon taking care of her mom [and mine] who had a stroke.”
Norm said about his dad, “I never knew what lonely was until my dad died. I knew this day would come, but I didn’t think it would come so soon. He would do anything for us…however long no matter how much it would take. He as always there for us…he was perfect.”
There are so many good things about Dick—but there is one more thing that it is important to note: Dick had a strong faith in God. Lee said, “He had a strong faith in Jesus. He knew that Jesus was the only way to God. He knew that he was forgiven because of what Jesus did on the cross for him.”
In the months leading up to his death, due to a flesh eating bacteria, Dick was working his way through the Bible, as the hospital chaplain gave him a study guide to read through the Bible in a year. Dick believed that through Jesus we can be forgiven. I (Linus) remember praying with Dick on a number of occasions…most recently on a barge trip down the Erie Canal…and then again on the phone a few months later.
Dick appreciated prayer and was responsive to the core message of the Bible. The core message of the Bible is this: We are broken and flawed because of sin but God sent Jesus to rescue us from our brokenness so we can be forgiven and made right with God. It is as if there is a 100,000-foot wall we must climb to reach God in His perfection, but we only have a 100-foot ladder to climb with. No matter how high we make it, the wall is so much higher. We might look down at those who haven’t started up the ladder or who are a few rungs lower and feel good about ourselves, but we still fall so far short of the goal. That’s why Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Jesus said repeatedly that he came down from heaven to save us (John 6:38, 41, 51). He is the One who gives us eternal life (John 6:27). He is the bread of life (John 6:35, 48-51, 58). Any ladder we seek to climb to reach God (religion, morality and all other kinds of self-effort) falls short. The only hope we have is for God to lower a rescue basket from above and pull us up—Jesus was that rescue basket. The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:14). Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Is there fishing in heaven? I don’t know.
Is there golf in heaven? I don’t know.
Ah, but is there a heaven? I do know! There is!
And is there a way to heaven? Yes! Jesus is the way!
And Dick took that way…and now has new life…and a new body. He has his leg back. He has his health back. Things that were unclear are now clear.
And Dick is saying, “Thanks you Jesus for rescuing me, for saving me, for giving me eternal life.”
And Dick is saying, “I can hardly wait for Lee and Will and Norm and my grandchildren, Jason and Sarah—and, okay, my brother-in-law too—to be here with me and see me as I now am.
Please join me in prayer, “Lord thank you for Dick and the life he lived. Thank you that though flawed like the rest of us, you provided a way for forgiveness and new life through Jesus. Thank you that Dick put his faith in you as the One who came down from heaven to get us where we could never get ourselves. And now Lord, I pray that if there each person here would say “Yes” to Jesus and his gift of salvation and rescue. In Jesus’ name, Amen.